Best Musical: Tony vs Grammy - Part 1
Now that the 50th Annual Grammy Awards ceremony is history, and before the Tony Awards season sneaks up on us, it might be a good time to do a little investigating into the relationship between the category that both award shows recognize-Best Musical, of course. Impressively, this category has existed continuously at the Grammys since the very first year, 1958, and readers of this article no doubt hope that it continues to do so. The Tonys are a decade or so older, and have also always given out a prize for the year's top tuner. These two categories have existed pretty much side by side for long enough now that some parallels, similarities and differences can and should be brought to light.
Compare and Contrast
But first, let's set the scene. The Grammy Awards (www.grammy.com) are awarded by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, or NARAS (full disclosure: I am a NARAS member and Grammy voter) and recently have been given out every year in February, with their award year named after the previous calendar year. The award in question has gone by several slightly different names in the course of Grammy history, but is now called "Best Musical Show Album." The Tony Awards ceremony (www.tonyawards.com), sponsored by the American Theatre Wing and the League of American Theatres and Producers, takes place in early June and calls its award "Best Musical." The date of the award is the year in which it is given out.
Obviously, the Grammy is given to a recording and its "creators" (the rules are complicated-trust me on this one) and the Tony is presently given to a production and its "producers" (less complicated). And there are far more Grammy voters than Tony Voters, though NARAS members cannot vote in all musicAl Fields (pop, country, classical, jazz, etc.), engendering some sort of specialization, one would hope.
A key point to understand is the timing of eligibility for the awards. Varying somewhat in the early days of both awards, for some time now Grammy eligibility has been roughly October 1 - September 30. Tony eligibility is roughly early May to early May. Though this sounds like the time periods are nearly six months apart, in the Broadway musical theater world shows are almost always Tony-eligible first, and Grammy-eligible later. Not only is it conventional wisdom that the best shows open on Broadway in the spring, at the end of the season, but nearly all cast recordings are issued a month or two after the show has opened (with a wide range on this, as readers are probably aware).
So the fact remains that most Broadway musicals qualify for a Tony first, and for a Grammy afterwards, coming in just under the wire for eligibility for both, and ending up in award years which are the same. And every single Tony-winning Best Musical has had a Grammy-nominated recording (somebody tell me if I am wrong!). Twenty-four shows (nearly half of those possible) have ultimately won both awards, and it seems that all but three of them (How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying, Company and Hairspray) have won their Tony Award first.
So, it seems that the best way to predict each year's Grammy-winning Best Musical recording is simply to assume that it will be the same show that wins the current year's Best Musical Tony-it has happened roughly half the time. And what shows are these? They are for the most part the shows you would expect-well-known names, if not giants of the field, all but a handful of them as popular now as they were when they were new, and giving Little Room for one to argue their worth as recipients of both of these awards.
The first four years of the Grammys saw the award in this category go to Tony-winning Best Musicals: The Music Man (a great standard setter), Redhead (a now-forgotten musical comedy, but starring Gwen Verdon at the height of her powers and directed by her husband, Bob Fosse), The Sound Of Music (no slouch there) and the aforementioned (and a Pulitzer Prize winner) How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying. Within a few years the Hal Prince-directed Cabaret (by Kander and Ebb) and Company (Stephen Sondheim) would join the list, both remarkably innovative and tuneful. In the mid-1970s A Little Night Music (Prince/Sondheim again), Raisin (somewhat forgotten today, but based on A Raisin In the Sun) and The Wiz ("Ease On Down the Road") would win both awards three years running, and later in that decade Annie, Ain't Misbehavin', Sweeney Todd and Evita would do so four years in a row (the longest such string so far).
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Paul W. Thompson, a contributor to BroadwayWorld.com since 2007, is a Chicago-based singer, actor, musical director, pianist, vocal coach, composer and commentator. His career as a performer, teacher and writer is centered at Paul W. Thompson Music, located in Chicagoâ€™s historic Fine Arts Building, where he teaches the great songs of Broadway to the next generation of musical theater performers. A native of Nashville, Tennessee, Paul was raised in a family of professional musicians and teachers, steeped in classical, gospel, country, pop, sacred and show music. Dubbed a â€śthin, winsome ladâ€ť at the age of 13 by a critic for the Nashville Banner, he earned two degrees in musical theater (a B.F.A. with Honors from Baylor University and an M.M. from the University of Miami, Florida), plus an M.B.A. with Distinction from DePaul University. Paulâ€™s memberships include Actorsâ€™ Equity Association, the American Guild of Musical Artists, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (proud voter for the Grammy Awards!), the National Association of Teachers of Singing and New Yorkâ€™s Drama League.|
Moving easily between the worlds of classical music, religious music, classic pop and musical theater, Paul has appeared onstage or in the orchestra pit in concerts, musicals, operettas and operas in 30 states and in Europe, in a career spanning more than 35 years. His Chicagoland stage credits include â€śForever Plaidâ€ť at the Royal George Theater and twenty mainstage productions at Light Opera Works. Paul joined the Chicago Symphony Chorus in 1995 (he was Tenor I Section Leader for four years and sings on two Grammy-winning recordings), and is one of Chicagoâ€™s foremost liturgical singers, marking 20 years as a member of the choir at St. James Cathedral (Episcopal) in 2011.He has composed and arranged a number of anthems, hymns and songs for worship and concert use, and collaborates on the creation of new works of musical theater. Paul can be found on Monday nights watching showtune videos at the world-famous Sidetrack nightclub, the inspiration for his weekly column, â€śThe Showtune Mosh Pit.â€ť His proudest achievement is that he has seen the original Broadway production of every Tony Award-winning Best Musical since â€śCats.â€ť No, really. Since â€śCats!â€ť
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